Thai cave rescue: Elon Musk's kid-sized submarine prompts jeers, praise

With the world transfixed by the plight of a boys soccer team trapped for more than a week without food inside a dark Thailand cave complex, Tesla’s Elon Musk had an idea.

After being approached by a Twitter user and initially deferring to Thai authorities, Musk sent a series of tweets indicating that a team of his workers was developing a “tiny, kid-size submarine” that could possibly be used to maneuver through the narrow, perilous passageways leading to where the boys are trapped and where oxygen is running short.

He also sent engineers to Thailand to work with local officials and assist in any way that they could in the rescue mission and noted that tunnel boring equipment might be helpful. So far, rescuers  have brought out eight boys from the cave. Five more people, including the team’s coach, remain trapped in the Tham Luang cave complex that flooded during heavy monsoon rains.

Musk, whose companies are involved in sustainable transportation, space travel and artificial intelligence, even tweeted a video of the kid-sized submarine being tested at a high school’s swimming pool.

Throughout the ordeal, Musk claimed on Twitter that he was “iterating” his proposal by staying in contact with Thai officials; he also noted on Sunday that his team produced a replica of the mini-submarine that's inflatable.


Still, the efforts of the high-profile executive were not entirely well received on social media.

One user remarked that Musk’s creation was “stupid” and would have killed all the young boys.

Another tweeted that his proposal was a display of “astonishing cold egoism even for him.”

Although the pod he built probably won’t be useful in the Thai rescue, given the already exceedingly difficult conditions Thai Navy SEALS are working under, some said his prototype submarine could be beneficial in other circumstances.

The mini-submarine, which was fashioned out of a tube for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, could be useful in “open-water situations where a diver is disabled or unconscious,” Minda Zetlin noted in Inc.

Another Twitter user praised the tech leader for the teamwork aspect of his efforts in sending his company's experts to work alongside Thai officials.

Other observers also noted that Musk stepped up and developed something quickly during a rapidly-shifting event.

“Mini-sub arriving in about 17 hours,” he tweeted Sunday. “Hopefully useful. If not, perhaps it will be in a future situation.”